I always could see gods. They are shadows, vague shapes, but sometimes they’ll take the form of something from my memory. If they are dangerous, they’ll take the shape of something that frightens me. If they benevolent, they’ll take the shape of something that comforts me. They each have their own personalities too… some are mischievous, some are shy, some love attention and being doted on. They like to live in statues and shrines. Other’s care little about humans. They have important jobs to do, like moving clouds and making goats mate.
I was eight years old when I realized I was seeing gods. I was traveling with my family, taking fresh wool from the herders on the mountain, to the River City. We stopped to pay homage to the local gods, as one must do when traveling through their territory. (if you don’t, they might become vengeful) and I saw a man who looked like a king that I’d seen a glimpse of being carried by a dozen slaves. He wore bangles and fine skins, and jewels were everywhere on him – even strung on wires that ran through his skin. When he saw us coming to pay homage to the great statue, he became very excited, and started kissing the dying flowers in the offering bowl. To our amazement, the flowers came back to life and blossomed anew. My grandmother, who also is our shaman, told my father that this was a good omen. This god would protect us through its land. We gave it offerings of dyed wool.
I thought differently. Hadn’t they seen the king-magician kissing the flowers? While they told me there was no such man, and that the king I spoke of was far, far away from us, he stepped between us to stare at me. Instead of hunching over to get a better look, he simply shrunk to my height.
“I look like a king to you?” he asked.
I nodded. My grandmother took it as a sign that I’d been corrected, and they went about getting the great ox to move again.
He puffed out his chest and grinned wide. “Most people see only my house,” he said, pointing at the statue.
I looked at my parents, who were busy snapping at slaves. They still didn’t notice him.
“It’s solid wood,” I whispered, turning away so they couldn’t see me talking. “There’s no space for someone to live.”
“I don’t need space,” he said. Then he slipped into the statue, and out of sight. I could still feel his presence though. “I am Nagoy, the Road Guardian!” he shouted in his most mighty voice. “I give flowers their perfume!”
“How does that help guard the road?”
“It doesn’t,” he popped his head out of the statue, “but it’s fun.”
“Does this mean that you are the god of the road then?” I asked.
“Of course I am! I live in the statue, don’t I?”
“My family is traveling through your land, will you take care of us?”
He paused a moment, and chewed on his lips. “I might miss more offerings. And my home is here, not the entire road.”
“What if I gave you a new home?” I scurried over to the cart with the bag full of woolen dolls from the mountains, and pulled out a doll with wool jewelry stitched into it. “It looks like you.”
His eyes widened with glee. “You’ll carry me with you? Will you show me lots of flowers?”
“We travel everywhere. My mom says that we have traveled to every place with a name in the world!”
With that, he left his wooden statue and jumped into my doll. “I am Nagoy the Caravan Guardian!” he shouted in his mighty voice. “I give the flowers of all of the named places their perfume!”
Never had we had a sweeter smelling journey.
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